The December holiday travel season is rarely easy for travelers, but this year could prove particularly dicey. Airlines are still short on pilots and planes, and passenger traffic is predicted to nearly reach pre-pandemic levels.
The Transportation Security Administration screened 2.5 million passengers on the Sunday after Thanksgiving this year — the most on a single day in November since 2019. And data from Hopper, a travel booking platform, suggests that 18% more passengers could depart from domestic airports from Dec. 18 through Dec. 26 this year than did last year.
Combine surging demand with struggling supply, add a dash of the usual winter weather, and what do you have? A frothy cup of holiday travel chaos. Yet savvy travelers can still avoid the worst disruptions.
If you’re already booked: Fly like a pro
If you’re like most travelers, you’ve already booked your travel by now, which means avoiding headaches from disruptions is more about preparing for the worst and hoping for the best.
- You can probably still add trip insurance. Generally, you don’t have to buy certain types of trip insurance at the same time as your bookings, meaning you could still add protection for things like weather disruptions or health care costs.
- Avoid checked luggage if you can. It’s hard enough to get you and potentially your family from point A to point B, and checked luggage offers one more point of failure. Can you ship those gifts instead of bringing them in a suitcase?
- Check the status of your flight before you leave home. Yes, it’s a basic step, but it can be easy to forget in the rush to get out the door. Airlines are pretty good about notifying customers proactively about delays these days, but it’s still worth checking.
- Pack for disruptions.